Eclectics (Gr. to select), a class of ancient philosophers who professed to select whatever was good and true from all the other philosophical sects, that they might combine it in a new system. They held Plato in the highest esteem, but did not hesitate to add to his doctrines whatever they thought conformable to reason in the tenets of the other schools, or to reject whatever they disapproved. The eclectic system is supposed to have originated with Potamon of Alexandria, a Platonist; it flourished at Alexandria about the beginning of our era; and it reached its perfection under Ammonius Saccas, who blended Christianity with his views, and founded the Neo-Platonic sect of the Ammonians toward the end of the 2d century. The moral doctrine of the Eclectics was, that the mind of man, originally part of the Divine Being, having fallen into darkness and defilement through its connection with the body, is to be gradually emancipated from the influence of matter, and rise by contemplation to the knowledge and likeness of God; and that this result, which is the great end of philosophy, is to be attained through abstinence, voluntary mortification, and religious exercises.
In the infancy of this school, not a few professors of Christianity were led to think that a coalition might advantageously be formed between its system and that of the gospel. The only consequence was the corruption of the doctrines of the New Testament, by their mixture with pagan ideas and opinions. One of the most eminent Eclectics was Pro-clus, an edition of whose works was prepared by Victor Cousin (6 vols., Paris, 1820-'27), who used the term Eclecticism in a different sense to represent his own philosophical system.